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    The 4 Life-Stages of Successful Teams

    By Mark McCatty, Leadership & Team Advisor

    A team is a collection of people who gather together and combine their talents to accomplish a shared goal. We’ve all seen teams that have tremendous individual talent, yet fail to get it across the goal line. There is a difference between effective and ineffective teams. The difference between successful and ineffective teams is their ability to go through the stages that teams go through quickly. And it’s easier to get things moving when some momentum has been generated [ https://www.leadershipteamadvisor.com/our-blog/getting-teams-moving.html ]. Successful teams have a deep understanding of personal and collective strengths, and each team member cooperates with the other members to reach their shared objectives and honor their shared values.

    A Team is a group pf people who work toward a common goal, while demonstrating respect for each other. Respect is a key characteristic of uncommon teams. Respect is observable.  Team behaviors are present and easy to see, and easy to assess. It is also possible to assess the quality of the leadership behaviors that are demonstrated by the team’s membership.

    The 4 stages of a team…    


    1.       Foundation

    2.      Business Focus

    3.      Release Power

    4.       Sustain


    Stage 1: Foundation: at this level, the team forms [or is formed] and begins to explore the experiences of being a team. Teaming requires different skill sets. Teaming requires social awareness and more highly attuned people skills. Initially, a group is held together by bonding of similarity. When people align around what is similar, positive things can begin to happen. Bonding is critical to people. We want to be part of the tribe and we find others that we are attracted to form this bond. The challenge is that this creates clichés which is non-productive for effective teaming. Teams must move beyond adhesion – being attracted to similarities – to cohesion – maintaining attraction to dissimilarities. Leaders create the climate for teams to succeed by providing direction and support for the team process. Many times, additional team training skills, beyond the technical skills required for completing the task is required.

    In this foundation stage of teams, participants learn what it is like to work effectively with others. They begin to think and act like a team. They begin to provide more support to each other. They begin to be intentional about demonstrating respect to the other team members. But their focus can become more myopic about the team, and not the mission.

    Stage 2: Business Focus: at this level, the team begins to understand and take on the purpose for their team. Newly formed teams can be very excited and motivated by the new opportunity. Now, the teams need to turn their motivation toward accomplishing their purpose. Leaders inspire alignment around the common goals and assess the team’s understanding of their purpose. As teams begin to focus on accomplishing specific tasks, they become more motivated. Progress continues… [Team audit info]

    As teams begin to experience greater understanding and ownership for the team’s purpose, increased opportunity for ownership becomes available for the team.

    Stage 3: Release Power: at this level, the team becomes more empowered and begins to take on more responsibility for their own success. Generally, as teams begin to develop and show signs of accomplishment management begins the process of delegating responsibility to the team. If there is no process or development plan to support the team and to allow the team to be successfully pick-up these responsibilities, this delegation can be referred to as dumping. So, there is a heavy responsibility on leadership to create an engaging and supportive climate for the team. Teams are more inclined to take more control over their work and arrange conditions for their success once they’ve reached this stage of team development. Release of Power Planning is a structured process that allows the team to advance through this stage more easily. By defining future expectations for the team to control, and planning and providing the support for this transition, teams can successfully navigate through stage 3 and move quickly to the final team stage.

    Stage 4: Sustain: at this level the team begins to provide more self-direction and sustains their growth through the process of continual improvement. Teams will experience failure. And there is a benefit that may come from failure. Teams, like people grow through a learning process filled with successes and failures. When teams learn and progress from failure, then team failures are a benefit to the team. Organizationally, other teams can benefit from sharing the lessons learned. The successful lessons that are discovered from teams at this level can be shared, rather than allowing each team to learn its own lessons through trial and error.

    Leaders lift themselves to a higher level first; then they lift others around them. ~John Maxwell

    Leadership is Responsible

    Everything rises or falls on leadership. John Maxwell’s 15th Law of Teamwork [ http://store.johnmaxwell.com/The-17-Indisputable-Laws-of-Teamwork_p_673.html ] states that the difference between two equally talented teams is leadership. Leadership makes the difference. Good leaders have developed a high self-awareness. And wise leaders have learned to lead themselves successfully before they attempt to lead others. After all, leading yourself is usually the hardest person you will ever have to lead. You cannot take someone to a place you have never been yourself. Maybe you can point them in the right direction. But only someone who has gone down the path can show others the path.

    Leadership’s responsibilities for each stage:

    ·         Stage 1: Provide structure, direction, and team member skills training.

    ·         Stage 2: Provide training and resources for business management and the associated decisions.

    ·         Stage 3: Provide strategic clarity regarding future team responsibilities and empowerment levels.

    ·         Stage 4: Support a climate conducive to learning and continual improvement.

    ·       Team leadership requires moving beyond individual contribution. It means developing commitment in others. It means uniting diverse individuals who think about things differently. Building people with diverse backgrounds and experiences to join together around shared values to pursue a common goal. It means generating engagement that will inspire people to make personal sacrifices around the identified team purpose. Stage 4 teams have developed maturity and clarity of purpose and action. Leaders help teams develop clarity of understanding around values, goals, and roles and responsibilities. Without this simple clarity and commitment teamwork suffers. When teamwork suffers, the team fails.


    Mark McCatty - Leadership & Team Advisor

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    As a leadership and team advisor, I have helped numerous organizations, through speaker presentations, group training, and individual coaching, to meet the challenge of creating engaging and purposeful work environments. 

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